There aren’t enough magnets in the world
After 10 years of parenting I’ve come to an important conclusion: Not every piece of artwork produced by my kids is going to end up on the refrigerator.This may not seem like big information to you, and you may even disagree with me as you look at your own colorful kitchen display, but let me go on.My children are probably a lot like yours. Sometimes they produce little masterpieces that leave me in awe of their artistic abilities. Other times – not so much. Put it this way: If one of them hands me a painting in which he used every color at the same time to achieve the perfect blend of murky brown mush and I exclaim, “Beautiful!,” how do I then use the same word to describe something that truly is? I’m not saying you can’t appreciate the murky brown (if you must). But get a little more specific. Like, “Wow – look what happens when we mix all the colors together. What do you think about that?” Let him draw his own conclusions.The same can be said of academic achievements throughout his school career. If we make a huge to-do over every hiccup and burp our children create, they begin to feel a bit scrutinized. What we really want is for them to feel free to express themselves, to take risks, to move safely through experimentation and playfulness. And then celebrate the big stuff.We unknowingly start “hyper-parenting” at a very young age. It starts on the playground with cries of “Be careful” and “Not so high!” It continues into adolescence when we shout at the coach for not playing our kid or we berate the umpire for calling too many strikes, or when we try to solve every crisis in the classroom. Most 12-year-olds need to sit with a problem, ruminate over it, get mad because of it – and then do something about it. What they don’t need is us fixing it for them.We all experience moderate amounts of difficulty in life and, surprisingly, it’s rarely the end of the world. Neither is it always someone else’s fault. It’s almost always better when we own up to our own mistakes, and the earlier we learn this the better. Unless we teach kids to look within they’ll always be blaming the ump for bad calls. So what do artwork and baseball have to do with anything? Nothing. Except my kids do both. And I have been guilty of hanging too much artwork on the fridge and maybe arguing just the teensiest bit with an umpire’s “bad” call. So in my own desire to scrutinize less and allow freedom more, I’m also reminding myself that one of our goals as parents is to help our children develop the capacity to think for themselves. And when THAT happens, I’ll take their pictures and hang them on the fridge! Happy Mother’s Day! Charla Belinski teaches the positive parenting course Redirecting Children’s Behavior, and writes from her home in Snowmass Village. Her column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent.
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